a lightly covered and unnoticeable pit prepared as a trap for people or animals.
any trap or danger for the unwary: the pitfall of excessive pride.

Origin of pitfall

1275–1325; Middle English pittefalle, equivalent to pitte pit1 + falle (Old English fealle) trap

Synonyms for pitfall

1, 2. See trap1.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for pitfall

Contemporary Examples of pitfall

Historical Examples of pitfall

  • He knew that somewhere a pitfall awaited him, yet hardly where.

  • She was far too subtle and wary to stumble into such a pitfall as that.

    Queen Elizabeth

    Jacob Abbott

  • Linear Logic Language, the pitfall of all the old researchers.

    The K-Factor

    Harry Harrison (AKA Henry Maxwell Dempsey)

  • “But you did not tell me where the pitfall was made,” said Mr De Vellum, the solicitor.

    Hollowdell Grange

    George Manville Fenn

  • If I walk into a pitfall, it shall not be after having seen it made.

    The Hour and the Man

    Harriet Martineau

British Dictionary definitions for pitfall



an unsuspected difficulty or danger
a trap in the form of a concealed pit, designed to catch men or wild animals

Word Origin for pitfall

Old English pytt pit 1 + fealle trap
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for pitfall

c.1300, "concealed hole," a type of animal trap, from pit (n.1) + fall (n.). Extended sense of "any hidden danger" is first recorded early 15c.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper